Ladybugs are small beetles that belong to the Coccinellidae family and genus Hippodamia. There are about 5000 species of ladybugs that can be found across the globe. The diet of a ladybug mainly includes aphids. The spots on their wing covers and attractive color make them unappealing to predators. Ladybugs secrete a fluid from joints in their legs, which gives them a foul taste. A threatened ladybug may both play dead and secrete this foul-tasting substance to protect itself.
Their life cycle is quite similar to that of butterflies. There are four stages. After the egg hatches, the worm-like larva appear. The larva must metamorphose into pupa and develop into an adult ladybug.
The first stage is when the eggs are laid. The eggs are tiny and round. They are yellow in color. The females have an interesting way of protecting the eggs from the predators. They lay their eggs on the underside of leaves. In the spring, an adult could lay up to 300 eggs. To ensure that the newborns can find food, the mother lays eggs near an aphid colony. The eggs hatch in about 2-6 days.
After 2-6 days, the eggs hatch and the larvae step out. Once the larvae come out, they start looking for something to eat. They feed on the broken egg shell first. Since the mother lays eggs where they can find food in plenty, they start feeding on mites and aphids. They stay in this stage for 3-4 weeks. They molt many times during their growth stages. At the end of each growth stage, the larva molts or sheds its old skin. The new skin is more elastic.
This stage lasts for a week. In this stage, they attach themselves to the leaves. The pupa look very similar to a tiny shrimp. After a small growing period, they emerge as adults. They remain attached to the leaves and stay stationary. Once they enter the pupa stage, they are just a week away from adulthood. Once they have achieved the desired growth, they will emerge as adults.
During this initial period, the adult ladybug is very vulnerable. Its body is very soft and wet. The spots are dull and the new exoskeleton has to dry and harden. Once the exoskeleton becomes dry, it gains pigment. The pattern and marking on the body will depend on the species. Some will have spots, some might be spotless. The common ladybug is bright red with black spots, but you can find ladybugs with red spots and even white stripes.
Ladybugs are mainly viewed as useful insects, as they prevent aphids from destroying the crops. Though several species of ladybugs protect crops from aphids, some species like Mexican bean beetle and Squash beetle can be dangerous for crops. So, make sure that these species are not infesting your crops.